General Footy Writing: The ultimate Cats man has an inexplicable flaw

By Damian O’Donnell

I’ve got a mate who barracks for Geelong. I hadn’t seen him for a few months, but bumped into him at a house-warming function on Saturday afternoon.
Describing Bunter as a barracker is completely inadequate. Words like “supporter” or “member” or even “Cats man” also fall a long way short. These describe someone who follows the footy club and who gives voice to their support, or someone who has a “Footy Full On” sticker on the rear window of the car. They don’t describe the intensity with which Bunter follows Geelong.
He doesn’t just know all the players by name and appearance, he can tell you what number in the draft they were selected, what part of Australia they come from, what height and weight they were when they arrived at the club, their beep test statistics, their club ranking for bench presses and 40-metre sprints and five-kilometre runs, their preferred kicking foot, what it was about them that the Cats talent scouts liked, their strengths (very solid over head), and weaknesses (has no right side), their best position on the ground, and even what music they like to listen to.
He tells me who the characters are at the club and who are the quiet ones, which players have problems travelling and which don’t, which players Bomber admires and those he struggles with, the state of the contractual arrangements between Bomber and the club, when Frank Costa will resign and who will take over, how the Cats will keep Brian Cook, and the state of the club’s finances.
He is so Geelong that he probably pours blue and white hooped milk on his Weeties each morning.
This is not just a supporter; this is a man obsessed. But what a great obsession.
He goes to the games with his Cats jumper on (“You should never grow out of wearing the jumper to the games”), and if the game is interstate he will watch it on TV (if he‘s not making the trek) wearing his jumper in the lounge room. He doesn’t recline on his gigantic couch (we believe it’s the biggest couch in the Southern Hemisphere), but will balance right on the edge of the cushion and stare at the TV like a surgeon studies an X-ray, with glass of wine in hand (usually a South Australian shiraz). From this awkward position he provides non-stop commentary on the state of the game and the umpiring:
“No, that wasn’t holding the ball, surely.”
“Oh give me a break umpire; what was he supposed to do?”
“Look at Jimmy burrow in. He’s a star.”
“If Ablett doesn’t win the Brownlow this year, I’ll bare my bum in Bourke Street.”
“I tell you what; Tomahawk will be an absolute BEAUTY.”

You get the drift.
This is a bloke who used to have a huge poster on his lounge room wall of Gary Ablett senior taking that incredible grab over the hapless Demon defenders in the 1989 First Semi Final. There is Gary with the ball clasped behind his leg as he is returning to earth, his wild thin hair is releasing droplets of sweat over those mere mortals below him, and his mouth is distorted by the enormous effort of the leap.  To Bunter the poster is miles better than anything the masterful Impressionists Monet and Manet could conjure up. “Now that is art”, he would say.
The poster sat above the couch. It was placed there intentionally so visitors could look up and see Gary Ablett seemingly perched on their shoulders. He had it all worked out with the spotlight tilted to capture the poster at just the right angle.
However, his life moved on. He got married, and his wife has managed to “convince” him that such artwork belongs in the study, not the lounge room, so it has made way for a modern piece which shows a multitude of brown squares all piled upon each other. I’m not sure I really understand the point of this new artwork like I understood implicitly the point of the poster.
Bunter has Geelong blood flowing through his veins, having been born just down the road from Kardinia Park. And even when his family was uprooted to Canada, where he spent all of his teenage years, he still managed to find ways to keep the Cats fire burning. This is despite living on the vast, isolated plains of Saskatchewan, where he was distracted by beaver hunts, baseball and gridiron.
But for all this Geelong-ness, for all his fervent support of the Cats, there is something disturbing about Bunter – he’s optimistic. Being optimistic is so NOT Geelong, and I can’t figure out where this comes from. This positivity about the footy club must be a quirk in his DNA. It has never been extinguished. It survived the 2005 heart-breaking Semi Final loss to the Swans, it survived the 2004 Preliminary Final loss to the Lions, it survived the disastrous 2006 season, and despite a really hard kicking last September, it has apparently survived the loss to the Hawks in the 2008 Grand Final.
On Saturday I was discussing the upcoming Fremantle game with him. He was sublimely confident. “Absolutely no doubt,” he said about our chances of winning, “We’ll win because, quite simply, we’re a better side.”
And that is such a persuasive argument. We are a better side. Why would I be concerned?
But the comment that sent me rushing away from him (for fear of getting my hopes up) was his summation about this year’s Grand Final.
“No question,” he said. “Absolutely no question that the Cats will win the flag this year.”
I tried my best to avoid him for the rest of the afternoon.

About Damian O'Donnell

OK - which is the odd one out: Love the Cats and flannelette shirts, especially in winter. I get on extremely well with red wine. We just seem to hit it off. Love horse racing in Spring. Used to love cricket. Go to Stawell every Easter and contemplate life around the fire. Love water skiing, especially in summer. Love a great oil painting. Will read most things put in front of me. Thought 'The Sorpranos' was the best TV show ever made - by miles. Run an accounting practice in Melbourne's suburbs.

Comments

  1. Dips

    Great to hear about Bunter’s optimistic approach to supporting the mighty Cats. Until two years ago I thought I was the only Cats fan in Australia with a similar outlook. At least we have a few mates now.

    I must say I’m in awe of his detailed knowledge of the club and its people. Remarkable.

    Can’t say though that I like Bunter saying things like “there’s absolutely no question that the Cats will win the flag this year”.

    The footy gods don’t take kindly to such statements. I last said this, or something similar, late in the season in 1967. Not only did we fall at the last hurdle that year, we spent the next forty years in the wilderness.

    I blame myself entirely for this unfortunate outcome.

    I learnt that while it is essential to have positive thoughts about impending Cats premierships we should refrain from expressing them out loud, even when in the company of other Geelong supporters (i.e. keep the lid on it!). And never, ever put money on them (don’t ask).

    An occasional knowing smile has to suffice I’m afraid. I hope quite a few of us Cats fans have them on our faces the day after the 2009 Grand Final.

    I’m actually feeling optimistic at the moment.

  2. Burkie – It has occurred to me that Bunter might simply be making all his “knowledge” up. But he sure sounds convincing! And, to be fair, after the trade where we picked up Mackie he rang me very excited about our draft “sting” – he turned out to be right on that score.

Leave a Comment

*